I was scrolling through various social media outlets this morning when I was struck hard by feelings of inadequacy and unfulfillment. Exotic pictures of adventure and novelty, like couples cooking gourmet meals while traveling across the country in a unrealistically tidy van streamed past. Average Joes displaying their perfectly chiseled abs or colorfully crafted salads. Girls with perfectly coifed hair trekking through rugged mountains.
What is my life? Why don’t I look like these people? The impossible standard of perfection seized me. Even after my own Instagram-documented traveling dance adventures, my life could never look that good. For one, I don’t like to post selfies. It makes me feel narcissistic, which I try to avoid since I already deal with the societal expectations of being an only-child. Secondly, I’m too lazy to set up a scene for Instagram.
That’s the key! Social media is nothing more than a stage. Much as a performance doesn’t show the chaos and tragedy that goes on in rehearsals, social media doesn’t capture the innate flaws of our lives. It simply is not designed to. It highlights the most perfect, picture-ready, manipulated moments. It is simply a window for our own self-indulgent digital preening.
But, no one’s life is actually like that. No one. Not a single person.
Don’t believe me? Don’t just take my word for it. Just look at Ronda Rousey and Beyoncé, who are fed up with pretending they are always perfect. Let’s face it—they are some of the finest examples that imperfection is beautiful.
Ronda Rousey, champion UFC fighter, is all about self-love and authenticity. Far from the image of a “traditional woman,” she is strong, honest and real. She doesn’t care if she comes off as unattractive or unladylike. Rousey is unapologetically herself regardless of the expectations and reactions of the masses, and her social media page shows it. We all have flaws, and Rousey simply does not want to perpetuate the idea that she resembles anything close to perfection. Check out her new campaign with Reebok: Perfect Never for some of her inspiring thoughts on imperfection.
And Beyoncé. While she may seem like a a demi-goddess who has descended upon us mortals from the skies, not even Queen B is immune from imperfection. Just look at ‘Lemonade.’ While the video is a visually stunning work of art, it revolves around raw, unpleasant emotions such as anger, grief, jealousy and sadness. It shows that all life and love is imperfect by nature, even Beyoncé’s. And that is okay. In fact, it is beautiful. While most of what we see of Beyoncé seems perfect (she is a pretty incredible and inspiring woman after all) she will be the first to admit that she, too, is an imperfect human with the occasional life blemish.
I am a recovering perfectionist. Yes, recovering. Allowing myself to be imperfect and actually accepting it is a never-ending process. This goes for my physical body, my writing, my work: every facet of my existence. Simply posting videos of myself with an exposed, ‘imperfect’ midriff has caused me mild bouts of hyperventilation. So, you can imagine how strange it was for me when I had friends gawking enviously at my ongoing Instagram project: life of travel and dance and freedom.
I can only guffaw and point to the feelings of misery, stress, insecurity and untethering that plague me almost weekly. But Instagram doesn’t show that. It doesn’t show the tears. It doesn’t show the dirty, jagged fingernails and nights spent shivering alone in a tent. It doesn’t even show the multiple times I tripped like an ungraceful giraffe while dancing on rocks the size of baby heads. No, it shows only the most presentable of my work because it is a stage. It is a gallery. It is a hall in homage of what we as humans find beautiful and inspiring.
Life is not about dieting, buying things, sexual orientation or how ‘on the edge’ you can live. It is not about living in a van or a mansion. It’s about how you feel about yourself. It’s about the experiences you cherish. It’s about the personal, human-to-human interactions you have with others.
It is about passion.
While others may seem like they have perfect lives, know that we are all human and imperfect. Once you embrace that, your life will feel more unique and beautiful than you ever imagined.